Coronavirus: Tokyo Olympics ‘set to be postponed’
PUBLISHED: 09:57 23 March 2020 | UPDATED: 09:57 23 March 2020
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The Tokyo Olympics appear certain to be postponed until next year due to the coronavirus, as Canada and Australia said they were looking ahead to a 2021 Games.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe told his country’s parliament on Monday a postponement of the games would be unavoidable if the they cannot be held in a complete way because of the coronavirus impact.
Abe was commenting on the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s plan to examine the situation over the next few weeks and make a decision, which could include a postponement.
Abe, speaking at a parliamentary session, ruled out the possibility of a cancellation, comments that fall in line with the view of the IOC.
Abe told parliament postponing the Games – due to start on July 24 – may be an option if holding the event in “complete form” became impossible.
“If it is difficult to hold (the Games) in a complete way a decision of postponement would be unavoidable as we think the athletes’ safety is paramount,” he said.
The Olympics have never been postponed or cancelled during peacetime.
Meanwhile, Canadian officials said they would not be sending athletes to Tokyo if the Games went ahead.
In a statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the country’s paralympic committee “urgently” called on the IOC, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to postpone the Games for one year.
“We offer them our full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring,” the statement said.
“While we recognise the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community.”
The Australian Olympic Committee said in a statement: “Australian athletes should prepare for a Tokyo Olympic Games in the northern summer of 2021.”
It added the Australian team “could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad”.
But in response to growing calls for a delay over the Covid-19 pandemic, the IOC now accepts the Games could be moved to a new date.
In a statement, the IOC’s executive board said it would now step up its “scenario-planning” to look at the different possibilities in what is an ever-changing situation in Japan and globally.
The statement added: “The IOC EB emphasised that a cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody. Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda.”
Meanwhile, Dina Asher-Smith has called for a quick decision on whether to postpone the 2020 Olympics.
Britain’s 200 metres world champion believes believes the timeframe being used is too long for athletes whose training regimes have been severely hampered by sporting shutdowns and social-distancing measures the world over.
Asher-Smith tweeted: “So wait... does this mean that athletes face up to another FOUR weeks of finding ways to fit in training – whilst potentially putting ourselves, coaches, support staff and loved ones at risk just to find out they were going to be postponed anyway!!”
The British Olympic Association also urged the IOC to act quickly and decisively.
Chairman Sir Hugh Robertson said: “We welcome the IOC executive board decision to review the options in respect of a postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“However, we urge rapid decision-making for the sake of athletes who still face significant uncertainty.”
Dame Katherine Grainger, chair of UK Sport, feels the IOC is correct to consider a delay, saying: “Given the circumstances, news that the IOC are looking at options to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was inevitable, and the correct decision for the safety of athletes, staff and fans.”
In other developments, former Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini revealed on Sunday he has tested positive for coronavirus.
“Dear friends, I have been tested for coronavirus and my test result is positive,” Fellaini, now with Chinese club Shandong Luneng, wrote on Twitter.
League Two Leyton Orient have also announced an unnamed member of their squad has contracted Covid-19.
Former Leeds chairman Massimo Cellino, who owns Italian club Brescia, has called for the Serie A season to be cancelled while Italy remains in lockdown.
Cellino told the Corriere dello Sport newspaper: “Everything has to be moved to the next season. It is time for realism, gentlemen. This is the plague.”
Elsewhere, the prestigious Dubai World Cup horse racing meeting, scheduled to take place at Meydan on Saturday, has also been cancelled.